Trust your team, and get out of the way

January 31, 2014

Nashville Business Journal


The most effective business leaders amass the right people, set clear direction and then empower a team to get the job done.

After more than 50 years in business, I’ve deduced from study and observation that the principal obstacle to solid executive growth is the inability to effectively delegate. When you think “I can do it better myself,” you may have plateaued in your career. Leaders must learn to be good delegators.

Micromanaging is the No. 1 morale killer in any organization. Leaders win when people — not the boss —accomplish the work. Look at the big picture and stay out of the minutiae to find the path to true leadership. A mix of instincts and work experience will help you decide where and when to delegate.

Many years ago I had a mentor who likened business leaders to orchestra conductors. Your role is to get all these different people to play all these different instruments (think business tasks) so that the final product is beautifully in tune. Most importantly, he pointed out: An orchestra leader seldom plays an instrument.

I credit much of my success to assigning responsibilities to a trusted team, with minimal follow up.

Delegating responsibility to strong subordinates is essential to your ability to effectively manage any operation. However, delegating too much to new, inexperienced or underqualified people can lead to serious issues. Place clear responsibilities on the backs of your key team members so you will have time and peace of mind to see “over the hill and around the corner.” When you are able to look into the future you are moving into the ranks of the truly great leaders.

As you mature in your leadership role you will feel more and more comfortable saying the magic words of delegation: I trust you. Once you master the trust factor you are preparing for the next level of leadership.

Build trust, delegate intelligently and then get out of the way. That’s when magic things happen.

Joe Scarlett is the retired CEO and chariman of Tractor Supply Co. Reach him at

Comments and Discussion:

Perfect Timing

Posted Feb 5, 2014 at 2:18 PM by Wendy
This article had perfect timing. This morning I have been working on developing learning activities for a leader that wants to delegate more and micro-manage less. I will share this with him as well. Thank you!

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